If you want a new mountain bike sooner, rather than later, building one from the frame up may be the way to go in 2021. Vital wanted to put together its own custom-built bike to walk the walk so many of our readers do. Rather than do some fancy, niche bike like our Yeti SB165 Park Build or YT Capra dual-crown Downduro rig, we went for a do-all trail bike. The twist? We wanted to do it on a budget. There are plenty of dream builds out there and those are really neat, we salute you. Our dream build has a more practical flair though. Sure, we splurged on a PNW Loam lever (mmm, color-matched rubber) but really, all of the parts we chose to hang off our Privateer 141 frame were selected for their real-world practicality and price. On the topic of price, all the prices listed here are suggested retail. We know in the real world, much of these items can be had for even less money, so view these dollar amounts for illustrative purposes only.
Our budget MTB dream build has two categories of parts — product test items and familiar favorites. A bike build doesn't serve readers much if there isn't a test to go with it. Test items are pieces we have not reviewed here at Vital. They are new to us and we will be digging in to see how they perform.
#CheapDreamsAreMadeOfThese Bike Test Items
Frame - Privateer 141 - $1759
We started off with the Privateer 141 frame as it is one of the most enticing and well-received bikes to come out in the last year. The 141 has modern geometry in a lower-cost alloy frame. Our Privateer 141 frame is built with durability in mind thanks to hearty bearings and rubber frame protection in key spots. There's nothing proprietary going on with the frame, everything is plug-and-play in the most common standards. A 141mm-travel frame with rowdy geometry is a pretty darn versatile setup as well. Riders can clock in for some long days on bikes like this, as well as, get into nasty downhills without becoming overwhelmed.
Availability lead times on the Privateer 141 frame were much shorter than they were/are on complete builds. Months ago, when we hatched this project, actually being able to get product fueled our mission, and the Vital Bike Check section is accruing custom Privateers, so we knew the interest from Vital readers was already there.
- Size: P2
- 141mm (5.5 inches) travel
- 6066 T-6 aluminum frame
- Internal dropper post routing
- External shift and brake routing
- FOX DPX2 Performance Elite Shock
- Headset and rear axle included with frame
- Weight: 9 pounds (4.08 kg) with shock and axle
- 29-inch wheels only (as tested)
Wheels - Hunt Trail Wide 30 - $509
These Hunt wheels are the OE spec on the 141 complete build. Privateer and Hunt are actually both part of The Rider Firm company. In the same vein as the 141, the Hunt Trail Wide wheels tick the right boxes at the right price. They came pre-taped with valve-stems for running a tubeless setup, and there were spare spokes in the box. At three-degrees, the hub engagement is nice and the sound is somewhere between "angry bee" and benign.
- Rims - 6069 T6 aluminum (+69% tensile strength vs 6061-T6)
- Welded construction
- 30mm wide (internal)
- Hubs - 3-degree RapidEngage,
- Boost 110 front/148 rear (as tested)
- Double-sealed cartridge bearings
- 6-bolt rotor mounting
- Spoke Count - 28 front, 32 rear
- Spokes - Triple-butted (2.2-1.6-2.0) PSR reinforced Pillar Spokes.
Familiar Favorites Parts and Components
When we test individual products, often times they go on our personal bikes. Isolating variables is how effective testing works. Too many unknowns in the formula and you start to wonder what is affecting what. The Privateer 141 frame and Hunt wheels are the real focus here. The remainder of the parts we selected were done so because of prior testing, we know they work well and are associated with a reasonable cost.
Shimano Deore 12-speed
- Derailleur - $54.99
- Crank - $94.99
- Chain - $23.99
- 4-Piston Brake - $149 x 2
- BB - $33.99
If you caught our Deore review, then you know why we made the choices we did here — the Shimano Deore 12-speed group earned our MTB Product of the Year designation. In an effort to keep the cost of our build to a minimum, we sacrificed weight. In the interest of disclosure, many of the parts in this build were supplied by manufactures. This batch of parts, however, Vital purchased on its own. Deore parts are hard to come by. We had to go to several different retailers to find and purchase all the parts we needed. There was a scavenger hunt feel to the process and if you've built a bike from the frame up, you understand.
Shimano XT 12-speed Cassette - $160
In an effort to win back some lost weight, particularly unsprung, rotating mass, we opted for the more-expensive XT 12-speed cassette. At 470g, it isn't feather-weight but every little bit helps considering a Deore cassette is over 120g heavier. The XT group also passed Vital's long-term review with flying colors.
Shimano XT 12-speed Shifter - $61
We feel like this is the best upgrade one can make to a lower-level Shimano 12-speed drivetrain. The XT shifter feels like sport-luxury after spending time on anything less. Rubber padded shift paddles and double-release shifting — it's like a tiny little race car mounted to your handlebar (if you've ever had a short-throw stick in your car, you'll know what we mean).
Shimano XT Ice Tech 180mm Rotors - $53 x 2
We may classify these as one of our splurge items. Would we have been fine with Deore rotors? They certainly weren't an issue for the Transition Scout we used as our test bike but the 141 is supposed to be a wagon-wheeled land missile. We wanted every assurance that our brakes would be ready to slow us down from ludicrous speed before we went plaid.
Fork - Marzoochi Z1 - $699
Marzoochi is making a charge these days. It's been two years since Vital did a deep dive review on the Z1, and we wanted to get our mitts on it once again. Not every rider needs (or wants) 42-clicks of independent high- and low-speed compression and rebound. Some volume reducers on an air fork with a straight-forward compression knob is more than sufficient.
Dropper Seat Post - 170mm PNW Rainier - $179
We've tested and loved the PNW Rainier dropper. This is a proven product with a solid sticker price to match. For us, in this application, it was a no brainer.
Dropper Seat Post Lever - PNW Loam Lever - $69
This might be the most bike-geek thing on our build, but dang, the touch of red with the rubber pad is just so nice. We've tried a number of different dropper levers and the PNW Loam lever is a standout.
Tires - Versus Tires with Trail Casing - $120
Vital tested the 29x2.4-inch Versus rubber and gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars. For our Privateer build, we wanted to get a set back under the bike. They strike a nice balance of weight, puncture resistance, and rubber compound/grip. Seating the tires was a breeze on the Hunt wheels, even with an older, somewhat wheezy floor pump.
Saddle and Grips
- Sensus Radar Seat - $99.99
- Sensus Swayze Grips - $12.99
About as subjective as you can get, everybody has the grip they love. The Sensus Swayze slip-on grip has been a go-to for us for eight years running. Trail seats are new for Sensus, but this being a collaboration with SDG, it all felt safe to us.
Handlebar and Stem
- FSA Grid handlebar, 800mm (cut to 770mm) - $53.60
- FSA Gradient 35mm stem - $76.60
There are some really trick bars and stems out there. Riders can spend a pretty penny and get some snazzy stuff mounted on the front of the bike. We took a more simplistic approach. Vital wanted strong and inexpensive, so we chose FSA. We did try for the lower-priced Grid Stem but FSA was out and we had to upgrade to the Gradient. Personally, we generally prefer that our bar and stem are from the same brand.
The Privateer 141 Bike Building Experience
Once the parts and pieces were in hand, we built up our Privateer 141 in a single session, and that included filming. Generally, we were quite pleased with how the bike went together. Our only real snag came with routing the dropper cable. The exit from the down tube and re-entry to the seat tube is very tight and was prone to some binding. Fortunately, that was the first thing that was tackled in the build process and the rest of the bike assembly was smooth sailing (especially when the Milwaukee Sawzall showed up).
What's the Actual Bottom Line? Total Bike Cost and Weight
- Total cost, based on suggested retail pricing - $4,411.14
- Weight of complete, custom build with Nukeproof Horizon pedals - 35 pounds
What's Next for our Budget Dream Build?
Now that our bike is built and ready to rip, that is exactly what we are going to do! As summer arrives, be on the lookout for our follow-up feature where we review the Privateer 141's on-trail performance. We've only had one quick spin on the bike, and the very first thing we noticed is how the bike's rather portly 35-pound weight is so well hidden on trail. One would never guess this trail ripper is at the enduro-bruiser end of the weight spectrum. That said, we just can't wait to start clocking the miles!
We know this is not the lowest-cost build possible. Much like most mountain bikers, we relied on our own experience with what works well. We are also well aware that, based on suggested retail, our build will run more than the complete build from Privateer. That's just one hurdle riders face when building a custom bike. Another notable is the FOX 36 specced on the Privateer build is OE only at 150mm of travel. There's also opportunity cost, our bike came together much sooner this way. What aspects did Vital nail?
If this was your build, and money was definitely an object, what would you have done differently?